Community Review Team: BWL Planning Efforts 'Disjointed'

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A Community Review Team commissioned by Mayor Virg Bernero to evaluate the Lansing Board of Water and Light's response to a December ice storm released its findings today.

During a press conference with reporters Monday, Community Review Chairman Mike McDaniel said there had been three days at one point during the outages where there was absolutely no record of communication between BWL and the City of Lansing, though the utility disputes that claim.

"It is mind-boggling to me, there's no other word for it," he said. "I am still struck by the absolute lack of any records from any time during the ice storm outage itself."

McDaniel added nothing can be learned from the mistakes if they aren't documented to begin with.

The report did not specifically call on any of the BWL leadership to resign to step down, and McDaniel said they found no evidence General Manager Peter Lark's absence during part of the outages had no operational impact on restoration efforts.

"That's not our focus, our focus is to come up with specific findings and recommendations for the Mayor and for the board of BWL so they can make those decisions," he said.

It's a point, Sandy Zerkle, on the BWL Board of Commissioners says is the right move.

"I'm very glad there was no recommendations for any actions because there were mistakes but nothing intentional," Zerkle said.

Mayor Bernero said during the press conference he looked forward to reading through the review himself and later in a statement said there's indications BWL is moving in the right direction.

"The BWL has made a lot of progress in fixing the things that went wrong during the ice storm, he said. "The CRT report provides another level of objective analysis and certainty out hometown power company will be ready for the next natural disaster."

In a statement, East Lansing Mayor Nathan Triplett commended the report and the time the team put into completing it.

"The report sheds light on numerous shortcomings in terms of planning, response and recovery," Triplett said in the statement.

"It is critical that regional leaders come together without delay to review the CRT's recommendations and develop a plan of action.

Here are some of the conclusions from the CRT:

  • "The BWL planning efforts were disjointed."
  • "BWL does not have Emergency Manager. BWL did not have a distinct Emergency Operations Center."
  • "There was a failure of communication between the City and the BWL and a total lack of communication between the BWL and the other local governments."
  • "The failure to follow the BWL vegetation
    management policy, the lack of trained damage assessors, or “spotters” to immediately be deployed, and the non-availability of the Outage Management System were significant causes of the length of the outage."
  • "The CRT experience in obtaining records from the BWL was replete with instances where records were not forthcoming. There are a variety of reasons: (1) the BWL senior leadership does not preserve its emails, pursuant to its record retention policy which requires disposal immediately after use; (2) BWL adheres to a policy of non-distribution of any records it deems “sensitive information”; and (3) since there is no institutionalized system for communications during emergency events with the municipal governments which represent its customer service area, neither is there a protocol for preserving the records of those communications."
  • "BWL lacked a comprehensive system to identify all at-risk customers, including those with medical needs and seniors, who may have greater need for electrical power and a greater inability to re-locate or make alternative arrangements during the outage."
  • Read the full report and the BWL's response by clicking the links on the right side of the page.

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